If you had the opportunity to travel to a planet 140 million miles away from earth and uninhabited by any other human or known animal life, would you take it? You will travel through space for 7-8 months in a small capsule before arriving on Mars. Once there, you will need to readjust to gravity and complete the setup of the life-sustaining units that you will now call home. The only catch is that this trip is a one-way ticket, once you leave on the Mars Transit Trajectory, there is no going back. You will have to say goodbye to all of your family and friends as the only video call from Mars will have a seven minute delay one way.
The risks of space travel are immense and comparable to that of climbing Mount Everest, the only exception is that you and three others will be the first humans to set foot on the cold and barren planet whereas hundreds have submitted Everest. During the journey there, you may face unprecedented conditions including solar storms and this journey may push you to and beyond your physical and emotional limits.
After arriving on the “Red Planet”, you will begin demonstrating the skills you learned over the course of eight years of training on Earth. This may include performing maintenance and repairs, conducting research, sending back reports, growing your own food, and performing basic medical procedures among other things. Finally, every two years, you and the rest of your team will welcome four new astronauts who will join your settlement and adjust to the challenges of living on another planet far from home and familiarity.
So, would you be willing to give up everything you know—your friends, family, pets, and potential experiences on Earth to begin an entirely new life on a faraway planet? Over 200,000 people from various nationalities around the world felt they were up to the challenge and submitted their application for the Mars One Project. A non-profit, private institution planning to send the first four humans to live permanently on Mars by the year 2025.
I’ve been thinking about this question for over a week now, ever since I first read this Time article about a woman who made the Mars 100 list announced on February 16th, 2015. And honestly, I still have no idea what I would choose to do. On one hand, traveling to Mars would be an extraordinary experience and extremely beneficial to future space exploration and our understanding of the Red Planet and the potential for sustained life on other planets. That alone makes me want to jump at the opportunity but every time, right before I’m ready to make that my final decision, the sentimental and more rational part of my brain kicks in and I wonder if I am even capable of mentally taking on this challenge.
The seven to eight years of training is already a huge commitment and responsibility, but then there’s the seven month long journey in a small, confined area from Earth to Mars that has to mentally taxing. There’s no way out, there’s no where to go, and there’s definitely no turning back. The latter is probably the most terrifying. Once you leave the comfort of Earth, you will never get to experience it again.
Despite this already growing list of obstacles, my biggest one would probably be leaving behind those I love. For me, it’s unimaginable to have to say goodbye to your family and friends—forever. Sure you can video call and such but it will be never be the same as physically standing in the same space as a loved one. You won’t get to be there during hard times or get to celebrate joyous moments like milestones in the lives of those still on Earth.
So, if you had the opportunity to travel millions of miles to live and die on Mars, would you take it?